CVJ CSA Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
CSA | Overall Score: 6.2/10
Pros: relatively neutral bass and lower mids, price and value
Cons: weird tonality, treble quality, sibilant
Driver Setup: 1 Dynamic Driver + 1 Balanced Armature
Price: $20 (USD)
Disclaimer: This review is done of my own accord and this set is purchased at full price from Aliexpress.
The CSA is the younger brother of CSN (5BA+ 1DD) and it also follows a hybrid set up consisting of 1 dynamic driver and 1 balanced armature. We will take a closer look at the CSA in this review and lay out its pros and cons for you.
Accessories (Score: 7.5/10)
It comes in a wooden “treasure-chest” like box which opens to reveal the IEMs and the silicone tips. Presentation is impressive at this price point. Removing the top layer of sponge reveals a cable tie and a felt pouch, which is a really thoughtful inclusion.
Build Quality and Fit: (Score: 7.0/10)
The CSA fits my ear well and its ergonomic-ish design isolates well enough so kudos to them. Despite the all plastic construction, it feels light on the ears and no discomfort was experienced during long listening sessions. The cable is as good as you will get in this price range and feels sturdy and durable enough.
Sound: (Score: 5.8/10)
The CSA is a bright sounding IEM with relatively flat bass and lower mids combined with emphasised highs. This double whammy does the CSA a huge disservice and is where the CSA comes up short in its tuning. (Look at that 7-10K death)
Frequency Response of the CVJ CSA
Atom DAC and AMP
Music and albums listened to
Alan Walker – Alone/Faded/Darkside
Billie Eilish – When we all fall asleep, where do we go?
Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture
Chainsmokers – Sickboy
Cigarettes After Sex – Cry
The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
One Republic – Human
Keane – Fears and Hopes
Nino Rota – The Godfather OST
Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra – 2016 all Japan Band competition
Fedde Le Grand – Cinematic
ARTY – Rebound
ACDC – Highway to hell
Bass (Score: 6.0/10)
Bass here is kind of a supporting role as they are not distinct in the overall presentation, but is just enough such that you do not feel that the track sounds off. There is extension into sub bass regions, overall it just feels lacking. (Basically, it’s Bass without the B). The bass response is not the worst and manages to achieve a nice flat deep extension. However, in terms of quantity it provides the bare minimum and penalises the CSA in its tonality and overall sound signature.
Mids (Score: 6.5/10)
Mids on the CSA are more forward as compared to bass regions especially its upper mid range which feels really glaring at times. Lower mids are fine but as soon as female vocals enter the picture, it just feels that they are overpowering male vocals which makes the overall presentation skewed. In general, lower mids are in line with its lows but there is just that upper mid range peak that tilts the balance of the entire presentation, making many tracks hard to enjoy.
Treble (Score: 4.5/10)
The treble on the CVJ CSA is just painful and distasteful. I do not know why they are tuning it like this, there is so much sibilance hitting my ears up down left and right. Even on tracks that don’t usually sound sibilant, they still exhibit slight hints of sharpness which I am really sensitive to. This is a huge deal breaker personally. Most of the time, the treble simply sounds splashy and grainy, cymbals and high hats are so emphasised, and it gets really tiring to listen to for longer sessions and I would worry of getting Tinnitus.
I do not think that this unit possesses good tonality or timbre (to those who prioritises these), sound stage sounds artificially wide as a result of its treble tuning, and imaging is not really that great as many will say it to be. To sum up on how it sounds, a bright sounding set with unimpressive bass, skewed mid range and a dangerous treble tuning that may not be suitable for everyone.
CVJ CSA vs KBEAR KS2
The KBEAR KS2 comes to mind as a good point for comparison as they cost about the same and have similar driver configurations. In terms of aesthetics and accessories, I would think the CSAs have a slight edge of looking slightly more polished.
The 2 IEMs have drastically different tuning, with the KS2 going for a sharper V-shape sound signature. I foresee the KS2s being the crowd favourite in this match up due to its more mainstream tuning and safer signature. It's also much easier to enjoy the KS2s on long sessions on the train or moving about, without having to worry about eardrum fatigue. However, detail retrieval is much better on the CSA and the mids to lows sound more natural and less coloured on the CSA.
Both IEMs have their limitations given their price point but I personally would pick the KS2 over the CSA for casual listening any day. (which is what IEMs in this price range are good for basically).
I do respect the value that the CSA puts out in the budget category, bringing in that bright-neutral signature into this largely V-shaped populated segment. It manages to do some things right, such as achieving pretty decent detail retrieval and clarity. However, it is not suitable for everyone and I must caution those that are sensitive to treble even in the slightest. Although the CSA does perform decently as compared to its competitors, it carries that “deal breaker” trait in its tuning which I foresee to be highly divisive, making it hard for us to recommend this IEM.